'Child trafficking’ moral panic: blame, disrepute and loss

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‘Child trafficking’ has recently been critically positioned within moral panic theory by authors such as Westwood (2010) and Cree et al. (2014) making links between historical and present day presentations of this social issue. This paper contributes to this discussion but is distinct in its central concern; how separated and moving children and young people experience the present UK ‘child trafficking’ framework, in the midst of moral panic. Moral panics create conditions of blame, disrepute and loss, which this paper explores in relation to ‘child trafficking’ policy and practice and considers
the implications for trafficked children. (Non-)contemporary concepts of childhood underpinning the ‘child trafficking’ framework are examined, which posit children and childhood dichotomously as either innocent and lost, passive to abuse and wholly dependent on adult protection or as complicit, undeserving threats. In ‘child trafficking’ policy and practice, these constructs variably punish or ‘protect’ children, failing to address this group of children’s needs.
In the current climate of moral panics about social phenomena that seemingly threaten our social fabric and moral order (Critcher, 2009) through ‘enacted melodramas’ (Wright, 2015), social work research needs to critically engage with ‘claims-makers’ (Clapton et al., 2013) and present alternative renderings of social problems. This paper argues that social work research is well placed to redress moral panics through its activity in engaging ethically with people who are marginalised with difficult social problem
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)2-8
Number of pages7
JournalTOR - The Open Review of Social Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


  • child trafficking
  • moral panic
  • children
  • childhood


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